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One side has nothing to lose and the other wants to make sure they don't lose any more resources when Byford's Readimix Taihape makes the long trip up Waitotara Valley to meet Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri on Saturday.
The narrative is fairly well set for the last two weekends of the Tasman Tanning Premier regular season, with the Top 3 teams likely to maintain their current positions on the table while they play bottom 3 opponents.
However, with just two points separating those three teams from claiming the coveted fourth spot and the pride of making the playoffs, Ngamatapouri are like McCarthy Transport Ruapehu and Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist – just living on the margins.
As has been seen in several games this year, matches those sides have hopelessly lost to the title contenders had nonetheless a tense final 15-20 minutes, because the prospect of four tries and a priceless bonus point was still on the cards.
Ngamatapouri coach Danny Tamehana was therefore very interested in the outcome of the Ruapehu vs Marist game in Ohakune last weekend, because although Ruapehu's bonus point victory dropped his team down to sixth, they remain only two points behind fourth, whereas a Marist win would have made the spot unreachable.
"It gives us a chance, everyone's looking forward to it [with Taihape].
"If anything does happen, results go our way, it's definitely taking the hard road."
Ngamatapouri could manage only two tries in the 60-12 hammering from Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau at the Country Club, which was in part because the home side dominated in the scrums.
It was Tamehana's mission in 2020 to take a side filled with Fijian flair and getting them drilled better for set piece.
"Definitely something we all talked about, but it's a mental thing as well – we were missing a few leaders," he said.
Losing against Marist 28-5 two weeks ago proved very costly with the likes of Steelform Wanganui extended squad member Samu Kubunavanua injured, as was former Wanganui stalwart Bryn Hudson.
Those two, along with fellow key forward Zane Neil, will make the call on Saturday morning if they can be match fit.
"To have any one of those experienced players out there for any time is a bonus," said Tamehana.
Named in a Wanganui squad for the first time since the Meads Cup-winning season of 2017, after two years with Horowhenua-Kapiti, big Timoci "Jim" Seruwalu could be the answer to Ngamatapouri's four-try equation.
He scored a 70m stunner in the 35-5 loss to Taihape at Memorial Park on July 25, and has tries in the past two games.
"We've been working hard the past couple of weeks to put that guy into space, instead of him trying to make something from nothing," said Tamehana.
"We've got nothing to lose – we're just going to have fun, let the reins out a little bit and let them play rugby, back more the way they used to."
Ngamatapouri signalling they are returning to the helter-skelter style raises a conundrum for Taihape coach Tom Wells, who is factoring taking maybe as few as 19-20 players up the valley.
Taihape paid a price for the end of their 10-road games winning streak against Waverley Harvesting Border last weekend - losing 36-19 to all-but guarantee an away semifinal against Kaierau.
Fullback Tim Goodwin, a Kaierau import, scored his first try for the club in a brave effort that will unfortunately be his last for the season.
"He just hit his straps versus Border – broke his jaw in the first two minutes and played on," said Wells.
"We've had a few injuries from last week and a few unavailable.
"Just got to try to manage guys; it's more important what happens in three weeks.
"We'll be trying to win and play well away, but we know what we've got ahead of us.
"We got guys limping around at training, I'm not going to start them if I have to with Kaierau."
To that end, inspirational captain Matt Brown might be rested or coming off the bench – Taihape still expected to dominate the set-piece with the likes of Wanganui squad members Wiremu Cottrell, Hadlee Hay-Horton, Lennox Shanks and Dylan Gallien.
With the prospect of the Wanganui No2 jumper in front of him, Gallien has been having another superb club season – Mr Perpetual Motion with five tries in the last four games.
"He's just playing exceptionally for us, actually," said Wells.
"He's accurate at his core duties at hooker, and he gets around the field as a loosie."
But although it would be no-contest in tight, Taihape could be a little vulnerable through the backline as they go without the likes of Goodwin while outstanding midfielder Jaye Flaws is also away - given the home side is likely to try to spread the ball and run it from anywhere.
"For us and [keeping] our structure, it's hard against them. They're dangerous enough to get a few points against us," said Wells.
He is hoping to bring back Luke Whale from the Bennett's Taihape Senior team, as Whale is very experienced at Premier level and would slot in comfortably with brother Dane and his fellow Wanganui squad member Tyler Rogers-Holden.
In the other matches, Border will defend the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield at Spriggens Park against a desperate Marist, while Ruapehu are quietly confident they can give Kaierau a true test when they come to the Country Club.
Premier (2.30pm kickoffs): Marist vs Border, Spriggens Park; Kaierau vs Ruapehu, Country Club; Ngamatapouri vs Taihape, Waitotara Valley.